Education in the Prisons
Many types of education were available to prisoners in Armagh Gaol and the Maze and Long Kesh Prison, including secondary education and vocational training. Arts workshops organised by the Prison Arts Foundation were also held in the H-Blocks in the later years of the conflict. Alongside formal classes and courses, informal learning was an important aspect of prison education, with some prisoners sharing their knowledge and learning gained on the ‘outside’. In addition, prisoners who were enrolled in formal courses could pass on their learning and resources to other prisoners, in what is known as ‘cascade’ teaching.
Significantly, the Open University (OU) began providing higher education courses to internees at Long Kesh in 1972. In subsequent years, the provision of OU teaching was expanded across British and Irish prisons, including the H-Blocks and Armagh Gaol. Between 1972 and 2000, hundreds of loyalist and republican prisoners studied a wide range of courses with the OU. Students gained qualifications at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.
Learn More Here
The Open University
McKeown, L. (2001)
Out of Time: Irish Republican Prisoners, Long Kesh, 1972-2000. Belfast: Beyond the Pale Publications.
We had a very very extensive library in our compound
Harry and Sean
Watch the short film ‘Inside Education’ below – what types of education are mentioned? List them all.
I ended up doing a course in History and Politics – what else I suppose?
Watch the short film ‘Inside Education’ below – what were some of the challenges of studying in prison?
There was hundreds and hundreds of ‘O’ level successes
Watch the clips of the former prisoners. What role did education play for them in prison and afterwards?
We were each allocated a compound
Watch the clips and reflect on what it was like for outside teachers to work in the prison
When I first started I did find it very strange
The family didn’t know
Jenny and Pat
A short film, produced by PMA in July 2020, which reveals the breadth of education within the Maze and Long Kesh Prison during the conflict.
View Film ⟶
Links to NI Curriculum
CCEA GCSE History: Unit 1; Section B; Option 2: Changing Relations: Northern Ireland and its Neighbours, 1965–1998
Questions based on GCSE CEA history exam papers
Using the clip of Seanna and your contextual knowledge, give two reasons that explain why education was viewed to be important by many prisoners at the Maze and Long Kesh Prison during the conflict.
Using the clips of Diana, Joanna, Jenny and Pat, and your contextual knowledge, give two reasons that explain why teaching at the Maze and Long Kesh Prison could be challenging.
How useful is the clip of Bobby for an historian studying the use of education in the cages/ compounds of Long Kesh? Explain your answer, using the clip and your contextual knowledge.